Kyuss may have disbanded in 1995, but the desert storm that the stoner godheads whipped up wouldn’t die down in California, or abroad for that matter. The winds of the Palm Desert scene would sweep across continents to Europe and beyond. Though fledging desert cruisers around the world adopted the stoner sound, the Palm Desert has remained the most established and active regional scene, proving that this sound wasn’t just a flash in the pan (or bud in the bong), it was far more reaching and permanent, and even transcendent, than many would have foreseen. Following The Carouser‘s first examination of important desert rock bands of then and now, with scene legend Brant Bjork, we speak to London stoner giants Steak. Being the best dirt dealers in the UK, The Carouser thought it fit to interview the band about the influence that the Palm Desert scene has had on them. Desert despot Daragh Markham takes a 50 million year trip with Steak guitarist Reece…
The Carouser: Tell us about the first time you heard Palm Desert stoner rock. Why did this style resonate with you, what was it about this scene that inspired Steak and your music?
Reece: I just loved the whole punk rock-on-acid ethos of it all, DIY illegal parties in the middle of the desert, kids getting fucked up and drug-fuelled jams in the middle of the desert… It’s another world to what we have in Europe. Those bands seemed not to give a fuck about the outside world, just concerned with what they were doing and it shows in the music they produced. It was a moment in time when mainstream music was going mad. Here was a group of guys doing it because they wanted to and for no other reason. That mix of punk rock-on-acid is what makes it great and the Palm Desert scene bands are some of the great unsung heroes of underground music in my mind.
How much has the jam-heavy nature of the Palm Desert scene had an influence on Steak’s music? Brant Bjork has said that Blues For The Red Sun made him consciously aware that Kyuss were doing something in line with their desert environment. Do you see Steak as a reflection of that consciousness, with your music being a reply or homage to that original sound and energy?
As much as we love these bands, Steak are from the dirt, smoke and filth of London. Life moves quick and you need to fight to get along. We could never replicate what they did, and as much as Slab City [debut Steak album, recorded in the Palm Desert] is a homage to those guys, it for me is a true Steak album. We loved the idea of a UK band going to the desert to make a desert rock album, that mix was exciting. It was great being out there and time moves slower for sure, you get into a different groove. But these songs were born in London and maybe the sun-drenched desert just softened the edges a bit.
Why do you think the Palm Desert sound has been so well received outside of California, all the way to places like Europe?
Europeans fell in love with the story, the romance of these bands that nobody gave a fuck about. People want to escape when they listen to music and this stuff took you straight to the heart of a generator party in the desert. What more can you want?
Do Steak have any favourite moments/releases from the Palm Desert, either from the bands of the scene or from your trip out there to record Slab City?
Man, since our trip out there, there are just too many to name. John Garcia [vocalist of Kyuss, Slo Burn, Unida, Hermano, Vista Chino] rolling up to the studio with a bottle of Jack and belting out vocals on ‘Pisser’ for me was a pinch-yourself moment, that shit is unreal to me. But honestly all those guys are so welcoming and honest it’s just a pleasure to be out there with them and it’s an honour to perform alongside some of them.
Steak have been described as ‘Heavy cruisers on route to some generator party’. You guys have obviously seen the now-legendary footage of Kyuss doing ‘Whitewater’ and the like at one of those parties out in the desert. What sort of impression/influence have these infamous gatherings had on Steak?
Yeah, of course we have seen the early generator stuff, it’s magical and again I liken it to the early UK punk scene in a way. When kids get together and do stuff just for the shit of it then magic happens. When the big labels see the opportunity they screw it up every time and that’s just music evolution. This process has to happen and repeat to keep things fresh.
What do you think (on a personal, or more objective level) makes the Palm Desert sound/style and its bands so timeless?
The great thing about the Palm Desert scene is that it got overlooked in lots of ways, I guess because of grunge or whatever. The fact that it remains so strong now is for that very fact. Steak try to bring that combination of those generator parties and punk rock to our live performance, especially the smaller shows when you can get in there with the crowd. We just love the energy that it feeds. We don’t have to be technically perfect, it’s all about the vibe and I guess that’s the point. It’s timeless because it’s unique and that’s because the time and the place and the people were unique, it won’t be repeated in the same way. We should continue to cherish what happened there.
This article was originally intended for The Carouser’s Bourbon Special but got bumped due to time constraints. The previous instalment, with desert icon Brant Bjork, can be read HERE